NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission Hearing on Vision Zero Laws and Safety Decal

Regarding Taxi and Livery Driver Safety and Crash Reporting, Local Laws 27, 28 and 30

Testimony by Paul Steely White, Executive Director, Transportation Alternatives
Thursday, September 18, 2014

Good morning Commissioner Joshi and members of the Taxi & Limousine Commission. My name is Paul Steely White, and I am the Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives, New York City’s advocate for safe streets, biking, walking and public transportation.

As a member of Mayor de Blasio’s Standing Interagency Vision Zero Task Force, the Taxi & Limousine Commission has tremendous power to save lives and prevent debilitating injuries on New York City streets. The commission has a responsibility to everyone in New York City to reach for the highest standards of crash prevention.

I am pleased to testify today in strong support of these important laws. These rules will help save lives by codifying high standards for safe driving, holding professional drivers accountable and, if need be, taking dangerous drivers off the streets. I urge the TLC to implement and start enforcing the rules quickly and to the fullest extent possible.

Setting the Pace on our Streets:

Transportation Alternatives is a long-time supporter of taxis, liveries and for-hire vehicles because we view them as part of New York’s public transportation network. They enable New Yorkers to take advantage of the city’s car-free lifestyle by providing convenient, on-demand transportation for more than 250 million people a year.

Taxis, liveries and other for-hire vehicles set the pace on New York City streets, which means that they are inseparable from achieving Vision Zero. Their drivers must be able to give their undivided attention to navigating our dense urban landscape, filled with people of all ages who are walking, biking, strolling, and who are extremely vulnerable to injury or death if struck by any driver.

The TLC licenses more than 115,000 drivers who carry close to a million passengers a day. On major Manhattan streets, taxis account for up to half of all vehicle traffic. These professional drivers must be held to the highest possible safety standards because they lead by example on our roads.
Ensuring All Drivers are Safe Drivers:

While most TLC drivers are good, safe drivers, far too many New Yorkers have been killed by reckless taxi and livery drivers. For-hire vehicles make up just over 2% of registrations in the city but are involved in 13% of fatal and serious injury crashesi. This is unacceptable. As professional drivers, they must be held to a higher standardii.

Again, we know that most TLC-licensed drivers are safe. Less than 1% of TLC drivers get into crashes where victims are killed or left in critical conditioniii. Transportation Alternatives was pleased to participate in the TLC’s recent honor roll ceremony for hundreds of drivers who have perfectly clean driving records over the last 5 years. Drivers like Frederick Amoafo serve as inspiration to the rest of the fleet and deserve to be recognized.

The TLC can at once acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of taxi drivers are safe, responsible drivers while also admitting that there are thousands of licensed taxi drivers who are too careless, too reckless, or too dangerous to stay behind the wheeliii. It is imperative to identify those drivers immediately, and remove them from the road before a tragedy occurs. These new rules will give the TLC the ability to reward safe drivers, while removing those who pose a threat to New Yorkers.

The TLC has a major role in achieving Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic deaths and serious injuries in the five boroughs by 2024. The fact is that for-hire vehicles cause far too many devastating crashes in our city every year, killing dozens of people. Operators who repeatedly drive recklessly are unfit to serve New Yorkers, and they shouldn’t be licensed by this Commission.

Rules for Vision Zero:

Transportation Alternatives supports the rapid adoption and enforcement of the following rules and offers these recommendations to ensure the highest levels of safety:

• Local Law 27 (Cooper’s Law): This bill protects the public by suspending or revoking licenses of drivers who crash and are charged or convicted (respectively) with violations and crimes resulting in death or critical injury. This is a common-sense law: drivers who are proven to be at fault for causing death or life-threatening injury shouldn’t continue to drive as professional, TLC-licensed drivers.
• Local Law 28: This law requires the TLC to review the fitness of their drivers and allows the Commission to protect New Yorkers by taking unsafe drivers off the road. This will help ensure that all TLC operators are safe, conscientious drivers who are worthy of the tough job navigating our streets.
• Local Law 30: There should be consequences for drivers who routinely hurt people and put lives at risk. This law allows the Commission to suspend and
revoke licenses of TLC drivers who persistently violate traffic safety laws. It reduces points for non-dangerous violations, while focusing on those most likely to kill or maim. However, T.A. strongly urges the TLC to remove the clause allowing traffic safety classes to substitute for points. Classes must be required in addition to a penalty of points. If drivers can remove points after attending a simple educational class, reckless drivers will remain on the road, putting the public at risk.

In conclusion, Transportation Alternatives encourages the TLC to adopt and begin enforcing these important rules as quickly and fully as possible. TLC drivers are professionals and a critical part of our transportation network. It is a difficult job and all TLC drivers should be accountable to the highest standards of safety, for their benefit and for the well-being of everyone in New York City.

i NYC DOT. The New York City Pedestrian Safety Study and Action Plan, 2010. http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/pedestrians/pedsafetyreport.shtml
ii For example, to be eligible to drive for USPS, drivers cannot have more than three moving violations within three years or one in the last year (http://about.usps.com/handbooks/po515/po515_ch7_005.htm); to be eligible to drive FedEx cargo vans, one cannot have a citation or conviction of driving faster than 10 miles above the posted speed limit within the last year (http://customcritical.fedex.com/us/owneroperator/quals/cargovan.shtml#q…).
iii NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission. Factsheet: How do TLC Rules Putting New Vision Zero Laws into Place Affect Drivers? 2014.

Hearing on Vision Zero Safety Decal

Testimony by Paul Steely White, Executive Director, Transportation Alternatives
Thursday, September 18, 2014

Good morning Commissioner Joshi and members of the Taxi & Limousine Commission. My name is Paul Steely White, and I am the Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. We are a 40-year old non-profit, with more than 100,000 activists in our network, dedicated to improving the safety of New York City’s streets.

I am here today to testify in support of a rule requiring TLC licensed vehicles to post a safety reminder for drivers. This proposal will save lives and prevent injuries by reminding drivers to utilize extra caution while making turns on our pedestrian-dense streets.

Vision Zero Safety Decal – a Daily Reminder:

Failing to yield to pedestrians is the leading cause of injury in traffic crashes in New York City. The TLC’s Vision Zero Safety Decal will serve as a daily reminder to drivers to exercise caution while driving. Vision Zero is a collective effort and involves constant awareness that our friends’, neighbors’ and loved ones’ lives are at stake. Pedestrians, even when in the crosswalk, are some of the most vulnerable people on our streets; this decal will help remind drivers that they are active stakeholders in achieving Vision Zero.

Recommendations:

The Vision Zero decal should be placed in all TLC licensed vehicles since the fleet as a whole plays an important role in Vision Zero. Since left-turns are particularly deadly, causing three times as many pedestrian fatalities as right-turns1, placing the image on the left side of the vehicle’s windshield may be most appropriate. And, of course, the decal should be visible but shouldn’t block drivers’ lines of sight.


1 NYC DOT. The New York City Pedestrian Safety Study and Action Plan, 2010. http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/pedestrians/pedsafetyreport.shtml